New England Patriots Grades: Defense Shines In Win

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Oct 11, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden (3) is sacked by New England Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins (91) at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Pass Defense: A-

Malcolm Butler certainly wasn’t facing the toughest of competition, but he was terrific on Sunday in his coverage, as he pretty much erased Terrance Newman from Brandon Weeden‘s arsenal. Tarell Brown was also impressive, and believe it or not, the much maligned Logan Ryan played well, even snagging an interception late in the contest.

However from the secondary standpoint, it was Devin McCourty that stole the show. As I noted briefly on Monday morning, McCourty lined up at cornerback/linebacker more than he usually does, and he was absolutely flawless in doing so. He took out Jason Witten from Dallas’ gameplan, as his instincts, intelligence, and excellent athleticism were all on display throughout Sunday’s game.

As great as the secondary was, it was the front seven that truly dominated, largely because of the quality of competition they were going up against. Without Tony Romo or Dez Bryant, the secondary didn’t face a giant challenge. However the front seven did, as they were tasked with going up against arguably the best offensive line in all of football. And the end result was a resounding victory for New England, as they sacked Weeden three times, hit him eight times, and held him to a 67 overall passer rating. Jabaal Sheard dominated all game long as a pass rusher, as he sacked Weeden two times, and hit him three. Jamie Collins had a phenomenal sack wiped out by a questionable holding penalty, and before exciting with a rib injury, Dont’a Hightower snagged a sack with a killer A-gap blitz. I said before the season that the Patriots would have a top-5 pass rushing defense this year, and right now they rank second in the league only behind the Denver Broncos.

Run Defense: B

Early in the game when the Cowboys were trying to establish some kind of run game, Alan Branch, Sealver Siliga, Malcom Brown, Akiem Hicks, and the linebackers dominated the point of attack, and Dallas couldn’t get anything going. The Pats have come under a bit of fire for their inability to stop the run, but that is coming from idiotic analysts that don’t actually watch the games. The first two games of the year, the Pats really weren’t trying too hard to stop the run against Pittsburgh and Buffalo. They were in their sub-packages a lot, as they essentially challenged those teams to beat them on the ground.

However in week three against the Jags, New England tried to stop the run and held them to under three yards a carry. The final numbers don’t look great from this past Sunday (4.2 yards a carry), but a lot of those yards came when the Pats had a big lead. When it mattered, the big boys up front controlled the point of attack, and the linebackers filled nicely, particularly Jamie Collins, who had a big game with Hightower out.

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